SHRM Focuses on Global, Senior Business Leaders

By Beth Mirza Nov 20, 2009

Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) senior leaders opened the 2009 SHRM Leadership Conference, held Nov. 19-21, 2009, in Arlington, Va., for SHRM volunteer chapter and state council leaders, by introducing an intensified focus on global membership.

Chief Global Member Engagement Officer China Miner Gorman told the nearly 900 volunteer leaders at the opening keynote session of the conference that SHRM will step up its efforts to attract members around the globe. In 2009, SHRM networks have formed in Switzerland, Nigeria, India, Egypt (which sent two SHRM volunteers to the Leadership Conference) and the United Arab Emirates. HR professionals in South Korea, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Kuwait and Afghanistan are considering forming SHRM networks, Gorman said.

In addition, SHRM will focus on attracting more senior HR and non-HR executives, Gorman said. Market research shows that SHRM needs to add these executives to its membership in order to extend SHRM’s influence and thought leadership throughout the business world.

“Why non-HR executives?” Gorman asked. They often perform HR functions, and teaching them about HR’s skills and abilities can help build their appreciation for HR, she stated.

The professional organizations of other business leaders, such as chief financial officers, also could benefit from SHRM’s experience and expertise, she added.

However, she emphasized that SHRM will continue to focus on the needs of its current members and volunteer leaders. “You and your HR colleagues are the reason SHRM exists. You are our North Star” as SHRM develops new programs and offerings, Gorman said.

Building, Maintaining Personal Credibility

Keynote speaker Sandy Allgeier, SPHR, consultant, author and former senior HR executive, took the stage to encourage the attendees to build up their personal credibility. Sharing stories from her experiences serving as an HR leader at Atria Assisted Living—with 7,000 employees in 26 states—as well as at the Fortune 500 Providian Corp. and KFC Corp.,Allgeier said she has observed three secrets that are key to crafting personal credibility:

Forget about power, position and status. Leaders who allow their title to go to their head lose credibility, Allgeier said. “Credibility doesn’t come from the position—it comes from the individual.”

Make the decision to suspend judgment. Think, consider and process others’ input and information before forming an opinion. Don’t try to shout down others or show off what you know.

Lower your invisible fence to allow transparency and authenticity. People usually keep others at arm’s length to protect themselves from being vulnerable, Allgeier said. But that prevents people from being authentic, she stated. “Members in your [SHRM] chapters should see you as you are, see you as approachable,” she urged.

Seven steps can help individuals build their personal credibility:

  1. Know your stuff. The body of knowledge for the HR profession is changing constantly, Allgeier said, and HR professionals have to be learning constantly.

  2. Keep your commitments. Don’t reschedule lunches, be late to meetings or ignore e-mails. More importantly, set and publicize boundaries about what you can and cannot do so that people know what to expect from you.

  3. Honor confidences and avoid gossip.

  4. Know yourself. If you know your strengths and limitations, you can set and achieve realistic goals. Doing what you say you will do helps create personal credibility.

  5. Choose to value others. Their strengths and differences complement yours.

  6. Ask more and listen most. As senior leaders rise through their careers, they tend to rely on their experience and not listen to the people around them. Don’t do that, said Allgeier.

  7. Create credible interactions. To illustrate her final point, Allgeier told the story of an executive at a finance organization where she worked. The company had been acquired by another, and for several months, employees wondered if their jobs would be saved. The executive, “Bobby,” held weekly meetings in the atrium of the company’s building. Sometimes he had news to share, sometimes he didn’t, but he always held the meetings and kept employees informed. Employees who worked for other divisions of the company in other buildings—who weren’t getting the same kind of updates from their leaders—heard about the meetings and started coming every week to hear “Bobby in the lobby.” Though their jobs were in limbo, employees in Bobby’s division racked up higher productivity and sales numbers than ever before, Allgeier said.

Finally, the board of directors announced that the company would be closed and 800 jobs would be eliminated, including Bobby’s. Many employees filed into the shareholders’ meeting to hear the announcement. The board acknowledged the former executives of the acquired company, and each received polite applause—until Bobby’s name was called. The standing-room-only crowd gave him an eight-minute ovation, Allgeier said. Even though Bobby wasn’t able to save jobs, his efforts to keep employees in the know gave him enormous amounts of personal credibility.

Americans are experiencing a huge lack in just this type of credibility and trust, Allgeier said. Not only failed corporate giants but also sports stars and political figures have demonstrated failings that rock American’s belief in what they thought were trustworthy, hard-working and capable organizations and people.

Credibility as a Strategy

Now is a good time for HR to drive credibility as a strategy through their organizations, Allgeier told attendees. Establish credibility as part of each company’s mission; bring in people with high degrees of credibility; train, develop, recognize and reward credibility in current employees; and remove those who don’t meet the challenge, she said.

Last but not least, Allgeier said, personal credibility can be regained if it’s lost. It requires identifying what went wrong, addressing with humility the person or people the mistake has affected, and getting back in step—“like a customer service problem that goes badly but gets corrected so well that you remember the resolution, not the problem.”

When Allgeier started working at a financial organization, she wanted to change the compensation system. She made presentations, did research and called meetings with senior management—and ignored notices from higher-ups about requirements for her line managers to complete evaluations to comply with the current compensation system. Not until a week before Christmas did she realize that her line managers were way behind—and would have to complete the evaluations over their holiday break.

Afterward, she visited each manager and director in her division individually—and there were many of them—to apologize and explain how she had gotten swept away. As a result, surprisingly, they all wanted to switch to her new compensation system, she said. Unfortunately, the senior leaders never went for it, but she’d regained her personal credibility.

Beth Mirza is senior editor for HR News. She can be reached at


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